You can guess the title of most songs just by listening to them. Most songs have the song’s title in the chorus or at least somewhere within the lyrics. But there are a small group of songs that have a title that doesn’t appear in the lyrics at all. I thought it would be interesting to provide you a list of these such songs from the ’80s decade. In other decades, some examples of this occurrence include: “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, “A Day in the Life” by The Beatles, “Danny’s Song” by Loggins & Messina, “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones, “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, “Epic” by Faith No More, “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba and “The Scientist” by Coldplay just to name a few.
There are some instances in which a song title includes something in parenthesis and often that portion might appear in the lyrics even if the non-parenthetical part of the title does not. An example of this would be “Pride (In the Name of Love)” by U2. There are also songs where the title might not appear exactly in the lyrics, but something very close does. I have decided not to include songs on this list where I determine it is relatively close even if not exact. An example of this would be “Love Walks In” by Van Halen which includes the lyric “love comes walkin’ in”. It should go without saying, but the list will not include instrumental songs with no lyrics at all like “Axel F” or “Miami Vice Theme” either.
The list can include any song released from 1980-1989 that has a title which does not appear in the lyrics. My rankings will be based on a combination of perceived quality of work and pop culture significance, but mostly just my personal taste level both then and now (which admittedly can change daily). I know you can’t wait to see this unique list, so here are the TOP 15 SONGS OF THE ’80s WITH TITLES NOT IN THE LYRICS:
Honorable Mention: “One” by Metallica (1989) – I did not put this on the actual list because the word “one” does appear in the lyrics, but it comes near the end of the song and it’s not used in a major way. The lyric is “Now the world is gone, I’m just one.” So I decided I would at least mention it as an honorable mention.
15. “Polkas on 45” by Weird Al Yankovic (1984) – This is his first polka medley appearing on the In 3-D album and the title is a take on the medley-releasing novelty band Stars on 45.
14. “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses (1981) – Find out more about the song in my interview with Chris Butler of The Waitresses
13. “Space Age Love Song” by A Flock of Seagulls (1982) – “And for a little while, I was falling in love…”
12. “Lovesong” by The Cure (1989) – Received an honorable mention on our Top Songs that Peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100
11. “Children’s Story” by Slick Rick (1989) – “Once upon a time not long ago, when people wore pajamas and lived life slow…”
10. “Young Turks” by Rod Stewart (1981) – The term young Turk is slang for a rebellious youth who acts contrary to what is deemed normal by society. The chorus features the phrase “young hearts, be free, tonight”, so many think the song is called “Young Hearts” instead.
9. “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (1982) – “It’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder how I keep from going under…”
8. “Open Letter (To a Landlord)” by Living Colour (1989) – “Now you can tear a building down, but you can’t erase a memory…”
7. “Rock Box” by Run-DMC (1984) – This is the second track (and third single released) from their self-titled debut album. It doesn’t really have a chorus, so there is not a natural title that would be expected.
6. “Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)” by Mike + The Mechanics – Find out more about this song in our feature on The Underappreciated Voice of Paul Carrack
5. “Synchronicity II” by The Police (1983) – “Synchronicity I” includes the word synchronicity, but it’s counterpart does not.
4. “Goodnight Saigon” by Billy Joel (1982) – The lyrics are about Marines in battle bonding together, fighting their fears and trying to figure out how to survive during the Vietnam War.
3. “New Song” by Howard Jones (1983) – This is the debut single for Jones and went on to peak at #27 on the Billboard Hot 100.
2. “Bizarre Love Triangle” by New Order (1986) – I could have easily went with “True Faith” here which I also like quite a bit. New Order had many, many songs with titles that didn’t appear in the lyrics. This one reached #8 on the Billboard Hot Dance chart, but surprisingly failed to even chart on the Hot 100. I consider it to be one of the best synth-pop songs of the decade.
1. “Train in Vain” by The Clash (1980) – The London Calling album was released in December of 1979, but this single was released in 1980 so I feel it qualifies for this list. It is the final track on side 2 of the second album of the double album set. It was not originally included on the album’s track listing, appearing as a hidden track at the very end of the album (because it was added to the record at the last minute after the sleeve was already in production). When the London Calling album was released, many fans assumed it was called “Stand by Me” which was even added parenthetically to the title in some cases. They probably gave the song a different name to avoid confusion with Ben E. King’s 1961 song “Stand by Me”. The original song title is just “Train in Vain” and that is what most people know it by now, so I am still going to include it at the top of my list.
There’s my list. As usual and as I mentioned earlier, these are based on my personal preferences and the order could very well change a little depending on my mood or nostalgia on a given day. Are there any songs from the ’80s that you feel I have overlooked? If so or if you’d rank any differently, please leave them in the comments section below. I know there are many more songs that qualify for this list, but those are my favorites from the ’80s that confused us with titles that didn’t even appear in the song.
Hear all these tracks in our Spotify playlist…